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12 Times No-Name Actors Became The Face Of A Franchise

Updated November 30, 2020 4.2k votes 539 voters 12.1k views12 items

List RulesVote up your favorite actors that franchises turned into household names.

Becoming a Hollywood A-lister is no easy feat. It usually takes years and years of grinding to book supporting roles that lead to starring roles that lead to big-name success. However, some actors get shot directly into the mainstream consciousness thanks mostly - if not entirely - to one breakthrough role. When you become the face of a major film franchise, millions of people learn who you are overnight.

Hugh Jackman, a man most known for appearing in stage musicals, became a runaway success story thanks to his role as Wolverine in the X-Men franchise. Chris Hemsworth went from Australian soap operas to the big time thanks to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Robert Pattinson went from "that guy who played Cedric Diggery" to one of Hollywood's hottest young stars thanks to his part in the Twilight franchise. Get ready to vote up your favorite franchise leaders; here are some of the most high-profile examples of no-name actors who became the face of a Hollywood franchise.

  • Hugh Jackman, 'X-Men' Franchise
    Photo: X-Men Origins: Wolverine / 20th Century Fox

    It's a bit hard to believe now, but around the turn of the century, Hugh Jackman was a completely unknown quantity in Hollywood. Before landing his now-iconic role of Wolverine in 2000's X-Men, the Aussie found most of his early success on the stage, not the screen. Fast-forward a couple of decades and Jackman has become one of the most bankable stars in Tinseltown. He not only brought the beloved superhero to life, but also became completely inseparable from the role, reprising it numerous times in both ensemble features and standalone sagas alike.

    Having seemingly put Wolverine to bed for good in 2017's Logan, the multi-talented Jackman continues to book high-profile gigs like the starring roles in both The Greatest Showman and the Broadway revival of The Music Man. At home in action, comedy, drama, and musicals, Jackman boasts a big-screen resume that includes Christopher Nolan's The Prestige, Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain, and Denis Villeneuve's Prisoners - and it's all thanks to someone taking a chance on an unknown Aussie as an entire franchise's headlining mutant superhero.

    • Age: 47
    • Birthplace: Sydney, Australia
    Great breakout star?
  • Chris Hemsworth, 'Thor'/MCU Franchise
    Photo: Thor: The Dark World / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

    Take one look at Chris Hemsworth's face and you know the man was meant to be a star on the big screen. And though he is one of the most recognizable actors on Earth now, things weren't always such a sure thing for the Aussie actor. Hemsworth cut his teeth on television, starring in nearly 200 episodes of the Australian soap opera Home and Away and even appearing in the fifth season of the Australian version of Dancing with the Stars.

    Before getting the headlining role in Thor, the actor found the transition to Hollywood to be a bit rocky. He had a memorable, if momentary, turn as George Kirk in 2009's Star Trek and appeared in the twisted thriller A Perfect Getaway. The cult horror-comedy The Cabin in the Woods featured Hemsworth in a starring role but was put on the shelf for a few years thanks to financial difficulties. Everything worked out in the end for Hemsworth as he broke through once he was cast as Thor, subsequently landing big roles in films like Snow White and the Huntsman, Rush, and Men in Black: International. His Thor persona - buoyed by the ensemble Avengers films and especially by the Norse superhero's third standalone effort, Thor: Ragnarok - has become one of the most beloved in the MCU.

    • Age: 37
    • Birthplace: Melbourne, Australia
    Great breakout star?
  • Sigourney Weaver, 'Alien' Franchise
    Photo: Aliens / 20th Century Fox

    While the Alien franchise has hit a bit of a rough patch with Prometheus and Alien: Covenant failing to hit the highs fans have been looking for, the first two films are beloved entries in the sci-fi/horror film canon. A great many people were responsible for making the franchise into a massive hit, and one of the major names on that list is Sigourney Weaver.

    Weaver's role as Ellen Ripley served as her first big film role after years of honing her craft on stage. Weaver would use the exposure from Alien to her advantage, forming an impressive filmography over the years that includes multiple Academy Award nominations, more Alien films, and major roles in huge hits like Ghostbusters, Working Girl, and Avatar.

    • Age: 66
    • Birthplace: Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA
    Great breakout star?
  • John Carpenter's Halloween is one of the great underdog stories in all of film history. Filmed on a small budget of under half a million dollars, it would go on to become one of the most profitable independent films of all time and spawn a franchise of films that continues decades after its initial release. And along for the ride was newcomer Jamie Lee Curtis, who used her star-making turn as Laurie Strode to book roles in more horror movies throughout the early '80s before becoming a full-fledged headliner with films like Trading PlacesA Fish Called Wanda, and True Lies.

    But becoming a big name in Hollywood never kept Curtis too far from the Halloween franchise, as she has played a part in five of the series' sequels, including the 2018 continuity reboot, also simply titled Halloween.

    • Age: 61
    • Birthplace: Santa Monica, California, United States of America
    Great breakout star?